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Koppel deal, news Emmys bolster ABC

5 of 11 Emmys go to 'Nightline,' anchor re-ups with Alphabet

After a summer marred with controversy, ABC News harvested a double vote of confidence this week, nabbing Ted Koppel for another five years and raking in 11 news and documentary Emmy Awards — more than any other network.

Of the 11 Emmys, five went to “Nightline,” including two for its “Brave New World” specials. The net’s 24-hour international millennium celebration “ABC 2000” nabbed two awards, as did an installment of “The Century.” “World News Tonight — Weekend” and “20/20” garnered one award each.

ABC News prexy David Westin, who has had his fair share of bad publicity this summer, surely breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when Koppel, a 37-year veteran of ABC News, renewed his contract with the Alphabet web. Koppel will continue as anchor and managing editor of “Nightline,” a position he has held since the broadcast’s inception in March 1980.

Beginning in January, Koppel will continue his regular anchoring duties three nights per week, report six special weeklong series for “Nightline” each year, and anchor special primetime editions of “Nightline” when merited by breaking news. Koppel will also play a significant role in the program’s effort to establish new partnerships and move into new media.

“Nightline” executive producer Tom Bettag has also extended his contract for five years. Bettag, who has served as the show’s exec producer since 1991, will continue to be primarily responsible for the daily, half-hour broadcast, and will oversee Koppel’s multipart series and breaking-news specials. But Bettag will spend the bulk of managing “Nightline’s” migration into new media and developing new partnerships with other news orgs. Recently, “Nightline” has produced documentary programming for PBS, Court TV and the Discovery Channel.

Leroy Sievers has been promoted from senior field producer to executive producer, reporting to Bettag. Sievers will have daily oversight for “Nightline.”

“Nightline” is experiencing some ratings troubles. Year-to-date, the nightly broadcast has declined 9% in total viewers (4.82 million vs. 4.41 million). And in adults 25-54, the program is down 5% in household ratings from the previous year (2.0 rating vs. 1.9).

Wednesday night’s news and documentary Emmys also marked a turning point for CNN, which lost its prexy Rick Kaplan last week in a dramatic exec shuffle. Kaplan’s baby “CNN & Time,” the program responsible for the “Operation Tailwind” fiasco in which the cable news net had to retract its story, came home with an Emmy for outstanding coverage of a continuing news story for “Children of the Plague,” a report on AIDS orphans in Africa.

“CNN & Time” exec producer Civia Tamarkin feels that the Emmy win partially vindicates the show. “This is a show that people thought crashed and burned on its launch,” said Tamarkin. “But, in fact, many people say we’re doing the best work in TV.”

Also taking home awards on Wednesday night were CBS News and NBC News, earning six statuettes each.

PBS nabbed five Emmys, while TBS walked away with three. Cinemax won two awards for its “Reel Life” series, while sister net HBO earned one for “America Undercover.”

The awards, presented by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, recognized news and documentary programs that aired during the 1999 calendar year.

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